I live in Sweden, and have studied at the University of Stockholm since 2002. This autumn term, I studied Political Science, and wrote my fil kand thesis. A fil kand degree is 120 points (3 years) of studies with at least 60 points in the same subject. Every course is 20 points, and as part of the third course you write a 10-point thesis. This essay takes, in other words, half a term to do. I had written one before in another subject, and wanted this to be even better than the last. In the Swedish university system, there are only two passing grades, "Pass" and "Pass with praise". My first essay got a Pass, and this time, I wanted a Pass with praise.
There were two teachers in my group, one of which is a professor and an old idol of mine. The other was her assistant teacher.
So, I wrote the thesis, I worked my not-so-little butt off, I did every change my tutor told me to, including some changes I didn't really like, but I trusted her. My tutor had written articles about the same thing I wrote about, and I trusted her judgment. I finished the damned thing, turned it in, and waited for the dissertation debate. Now, we were twelve students in this seminar group from the beginning. When we handed in the essays, only six were left. Two of those had to withdraw their essays so as to not be reported for plagiarism. One of those were the thesis I was to read carefully and critisize at the debate. Not only did I not get to do my criticism of her essay, I was the one who noticed the plagiarism. That means that in the ten weeks we had to write our essays, not ONCE did her tutor check her sources. This made me doubt the quality of the teachers and the tutelage, but I waved it off and chalked it up to her own stupidity (and believe me, that girl WAS stupid). Anyway,we had the debates, and I get nothing but praise from my opponent/critic. The teachers have some criticism to give, but that's their job and I didn't expect anything less. So far, so good. They have a problem with a word I'd used (I wrote "liberalist" instead of "liberal"), and they ask me if I know what I mean with it. I explain what I mean. They ask again, offering another explanation. I agree with theirs, and give mine again. They ask me again what I mean, and I explain again. In the end, one of them said "Hm", and moved on. I still don't understand why they asked me several times what I meant when I explained it to them. I'm not bad with words, and I'm not unsure of myself. To my knowledge I'm not mentally challenged, but they treated me like I was.
Then I get the comments from the two teachers. These comments are hilarious. No, seriously. If they weren't comments on the work I had done (and almost gotten an ulcer in the process) I'd have laughed. One were "Your problem is too concrete. Or too vague?". That sounds like a quote from Zoolander - "Water is the essence of moist". But since this isn't a Ben Stiller movie, I was devastated. I work myself silly for ten weeks, and the comments I get tells me nothing! Another thing was that my tutor told me "Don't write about discourse B, you only have empiric material to write about discourse A", so I did, and the comment from the other teacher was "You should have written more about B".
So, I called the director of studies for Political Science, to talk about the conflicting instructions I had gotten and how that made me doubt the grade I was given (which, by the way, was a Pass), and that I want a second reading of my essay. When I try to explain my problem, he interrupts me by telling me that no-one will read my comments. I try to tell him that I don't want my comments read, I want the thesis read since the comments were absurd, he tells me AGAIN that no-one will read my comments, and since this isn't an issue about my grade, this is a non-question and I should just suck it up. So I try to change tactics and begin to tell him that I when I first spoke to my tutor, I told her about the grade I was aiming for and that I didn't think she'd taken her job seriously, he interrupts me and laughs at me. The entire time, he was patronizing and impatient with me. At the end of the phone call, I was nearly in tears.
Now I don't know what I'm going to do. I got the second opinion on my essay (from the man that laughed at me, and he agreed with my teachers. Big surprise). My goal was to get a masters' degree, but I don't want to study at that department any longer, and I don't really feel like changing universities either. Right now I feel like giving up and stay on sick leave (I was diagnosed with anxiety attacks in January) and then never study again, but I really don't like the thought of that either. It feels like that would be to let them win.